Misquote by Hard-line Newspaper Hospitalizes Iran’s Foreign Minister


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After being misquoted by a newspaper close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about his perception of the phone call between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif checked into a hospital due to stress.

Yesterday, hard-line newspaper Kayhan quoted the contents of a private meeting between Zarif and the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission about the recent trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. On its front page, Kayhan wrote: “Zarif: The phone conversation with Obama and my long meeting with John Kerry were improper.”

The supreme leader chooses Kayhan’s editor and the paper is distributed to most government offices. Kayhan’s positions are some of the most conservative in Iranian media.

Kayhan quoted Zarif as saying, “We thought that the conversations and discussions that took place were licensed but when the supreme leader made a reference to them, our take was that the supreme leader had criticized the discussion between Obama and Rouhani and he thought of it as improper, and the negotiations between me and John Kerry becoming too long was another improper aspect of the trip.”

Before Rouhani left New York after the UNGA, he and Obama had a short phone conversation. Also on the margins of the P5+1 meeting in New York, Zarif had a private discussion with Secretary of State John Kerry. On Oct. 5, Khamenei said that while he supported the government’s initiatives for negotiations, some aspects were “improper.” Some have translated this word as “inappropriate” or a “misstep.”

The spokesman for parliament’s National Security Commission, Mohammad Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, said of the article, “The content that was printed in this newspaper does not exist in the written report,” and that the National Security Commission “does not confirm this.” The headline on the Iran parliament’s news website was “National Security Commission Denies Kayhan’s News About Zarif’s Speech.”

Late last night, after returning from the hospital, Zarif took to his Facebook account to not only deny the Kayhan report but also to go on the offensive. He wrote, “After seeing the headline of a newspaper, I got extreme back and feet pain.” He then wrote that after four or five hours, seeing that the pain had not subsided, he checked himself into a hospital.

He said that what was written about him “had no relation to the lengthy conversation” he had with the National Security Commission. In a rare criticism of the editor of Kahyan, he wrote, “It’s interesting that those who claim to support velayat-e faqih [the guardianship of the jurist], are moving ahead of the supreme leader.” Zarif concluded that while “it was a bitter day, it was educational. I learned that everything I say has to be open because the market for abuse is very hot.”

In today’s paper, again on its front page, Kayhan has stuck to its original story. This time it quotes the spokesman of the National Security Commission and says that the interview with the spokesman exists in written and audio form. It recommends that audio of the private meeting between Zarif and the National Security Commission be released.

Today, after a meeting with the president’s cabinet, Zarif was approached by reporters. On claims that the spokesman for the National Security Council said that the contents of the meeting were not supposed to confidential, Zarif said, “It is better that he go and look again at the first sentence that was stated.”

On his trip to New York, Zarif said, “My position is completely clear, and I see the New York trip as a great victory for the system. I will not allow the achievements of the trip to New York by the Iranian body to be distorted.” When asked about the headline from Kayhan, Zarif said, “We have denied this issue.”